Watch out for holiday thieves

Staff writerDecember 7, 2012 

The holiday season traditionally means a spike in vehicle prowls, thefts and other types of crime as shoppers head for the stores and travel the interstates.

A Lacey man was beaten and robbed of Christmas shopping money Wednesday in the Westfield Capital mall parking lot.

The 57-year-old man had just cashed his paycheck and was planning to go Christmas shopping, according to Laura Wohl, spokesperson for the Olympia Police Department.

The Lacey man was attacked after getting out of his van on the east side of the mall.

“The man (victim) didn’t see the suspect,” Wohl said. “The man (suspect) came up from behind and slammed him against his car.”

The assailant slammed the Lacey man’s head into the van three times and demanded the man give him cash, Wohl said. The Lacey man handed over the money and the thief ran off.

The victim suffered minor injuries to his face and was treated at the scene, Wohl said.

Olympia police officers searched the area with a police dog, but no suspect not found. The victim was unable to see the man who assaulted him, and was unable to provide a description to police.

While incidents as violent as Wednesday’s are rare, an uptick in crimes – such as vehicle prowls and other thefts, traditionally increase during the holidays, according to Amy Stull, spokesperson for the Olympia Police Department’s community programs.

A handful of the department’s volunteers went to the mall and other areas with large parking lots shortly after Thanksgiving, putting up notices on cars to remind drivers to keep their valuables stowed out of sight and their car doors locked.

“We just go in and visually inspect cars and leave a little note that says your car is vulnerable because of this reason or that,” Stull said. “We put them on every car so we are not creating targets, so there is a ‘good job’ option as well on the form.”

Most who would break into a car are looking for “easy to carry items,” Stull said, such as purses, cellphones, iPods, laptops and other smaller electronics.

“Those are the main things that people are looking for because they are easy to resell,” Stull said.

Stull said it’s important for people to keep the serial numbers of their belongings.

Any items that are turned over to a pawn shop or second store are entered into a data system that cross-matches the serial numbers with items that have been reported stolen.

To avoid other kinds of crimes, Stull said people need to be aware of their surroundings and stay alert.

“I think we all get distracted around holiday times with all the tasks we have to do,” she said. “It’s important to keep your awareness level up.”

Similar tips can be taken for drivers who will be spending some of their holiday stuck in traffic.

A woman’s purse was stolen from the back seat of her car while she was attempting to help someone claiming to have a medical emergency on Monday.

The victim was exiting from southbound Interstate 5 to Sleater Kinney Road on Monday afternoon.

While waiting to turn, a woman in a red Saturn in front of the victim’s car got out and walked to the passenger side, claiming to have a medical emergency and asking to be taken to the hospital, according to Washington State Patrol spokesman Trooper Guy Gill.

The victim moved her purse from the passenger’s seat to the back seat, allowing the woman to sit in her car.

Soon a second woman came from the Saturn and started talking to the victim, claiming the passenger “was crazy.”

While the victim and the driver of the Saturn were talking, the passenger grabbed the victim’s purse and ran. Both women got back into the Saturn and drove off.

“If you are approached by anyone, especially in a situation like that on an off-ramp and you are stuck in traffic, call 911 and don’t let anyone in your vehicle,” Gill said. “If someone doesn’t feel comfortable in a situation like that, the best advice is don’t let them in your car.”

The thieves are described as in their mid-20s or 30s standing between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 6 inches tall with brown hair, yellow teeth. They weighed between 120 and 140 pounds and were last seen wearing black jackets, blue jeans and tennis shoes. One had a polka-dot purse.

Anyone with information about the incident on I-5 is asked to call the State Patrol Olympia Detachment at 360-586-4443.

Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 @chelseakrotzer

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